In an embarrassing turn of events during Qatar Airways’ inaugural service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), their Airbus A380 Super Jumbo operating the flight could not get a gate at the airport’s main terminal, and had to park at a remote stand, forcing passengers to deplane via airstairs (those mobile stairs mounted on top of a truck) before being shuttled to the terminals in buses.

Now you may be wondering what the big deal is. I’m sure you commonly see (or experience) airstairs and buses being used to help passengers board and disembark aircraft instead of gates and jetways (the long tubes connecting the airplane to the terminal building) as they cost less in airport fees than proper gates, so the fact that they were used on this Airbus A380 at ATL may not seem at all out of the ordinary. But the matter is, airstairs are typically used only for narrow-body aircraft operating short-haul routes. Widebodies such as the Boeing 777, Boeing 747, and Airbus A380 are almost guaranteed a gate (especially for long-haul flights) as they normally carry significantly more passengers than narrowbodies and would thus make the use of airstairs extremely inefficient and quite tedious for passengers, especially for an A380.

Despite Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta being the busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic with seven concourses (terminal buildings) and more than 200 gates, the entire airport only has one gate that can accommodate the Airbus A380 and its remarkable size. It just so happened that Delta Airlines, the airline with the biggest presence at the airport, declared that the gate was unavailable for Qatar Airways, forcing them to park the plane on the apron and deplaning the passenger via airstairs.

Fortunately, such a situation will never happen again as Qatar plans on operating the route in the future with smaller Boeing 777 aircraft. The use of an A380 was a one-off event to mark the inauguration of the route.

For the full story: